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Despite China's 'ghost cities,' the country continues construction boom

Cities continue to spring up in the heart of China. Designed to accommodate millions, many are still nearly empty.

July 22, 2015 |
China, Development, Master Plan, Urban Planning

Thames Town in Songjiang imitates a typical English town. Wikipedia lists it is as one of China's many ghost towns. Photo: Huai Chun Hsu/Wikimedia Commons

Construction in China continues to boom at a rapid pace, even without 3D printers that can print a skyscraper in just 19 days.

Developers and local governments in China are known for building master planned developments from scratch, but as Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza points out, many of them today are still ghost towns.

“From shopping malls to soccer stadiums, hundreds of new cities in China are largely empty. And yet more cities are still being built deep in the heart of the country,” Rapoza writes.

The city of Ordos, in China’s province of Inner Mongolia, is an example of such city. It made headlines in Western media after journalist Wade Shepard featured the city in his book, “Ghost Cities of China.”

Time magazine published a web slideshow of Kangbashi District in Ordos, with photography by Michael Christopher Brown. It shows swaths of subdivisions, mid-rise apartments, and commercial complexes built to entertain and accommodate a population the size of San Diego, but remains nearly empty.

Yet under-occupancy doesn’t seem to deter development. Last week, renderings started to circulate online of a walkable, terrace-shaped exhibition hall that Chinese practice Kuanlu Architects designed for Otog, also in Ordos.

“China’s continued urbanization push can be viewed as a full-on effort to develop an insulated economy that’s based on domestic production delivering goods and services to domestic consumers,” Rapoza writes, adding that it is a result of economic crises in the U.S. and E.U. taking a toll on China’s economy.

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